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Leader of upstart Alberta Freedom Conservative Party announces resignation

EDMONTON — Derek Fildebrandt is stepping down as leader of Alberta’s Freedom Conservative Party.

Fildebrandt announced his resignation Monday, less than a year after he launched the party following his departure from the United Conservative Party.

He says he expects an interim party leader to be named within a week, but no date has been set for a leadership vote.

The Freedom Conservatives nominated 24 candidates for the April 16 provincial election but failed to win a seat, including Fildebrandt’s home constituency of Chestermere-Strathmore, where he received less than 10 per cent of the vote.

Fildebrandt attributes the poor results to the party’s youth, ineligibility to take part in the leader’s debate, and to a campaign he believes presented only two options to voters.

He told CTV’s Alberta Primetime that he will remain a voice in provincial politics and is not looking at a run at the federal level.

Fildebrandt told the media outlet that he’s returning to private life to “get a real job, make some money.”

“Honestly, I’m happy to be done with politics. I’m happy to have my family back, to have a sense of private life back.”

He said he will support the interim leader with the hope that in the next provincial election, Albertans will be willing to give the Freedom Conservatives a good look.

Chestermere-Strathmore was a redrawn constituency on Calgary’s eastern boundary that was a grudge match between Fildebrandt and United Conservative candidate Leela Aheer.

Fildebrandt had said he was told by United Conservative Leader Jason Kenney in late 2017 that he would not be allowed to run in the constituency — shared with Aheer due to redistribution — because the party felt it was Aheer’s best chance to win and they needed women candidates.

Kenney denied there was an ultimatum and Fildebrandt was later expelled under a cloud of controversy. The Freedom Conservatives received just under 10,000 votes in the election.

During the party launch last July, Fildebrandt hoped to ultimately share power with those who spurned him.

He said his party would only run candidates in some constituencies in the spring election, and urged conservative supporters to hold their nose and vote for the UCP in constituencies where his party did not have candidates.